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The Marksman’s Path

Today I want to talk a little about something I call, The Marksman’s Path. No, I’m not referring to myself. One of the stated goals of this website is to build a better kind of citizen.

I wanted to take a moment to discuss what that looks like. So settle in, press play, and let’s get to it.

My last ten days with the Navy aboard a Destroyer bring vividly to mind another trip on the high seas, a year ago. On the night of June fifth, aboard the Cruiser Tuscaloosa, when we started to move across the cold dark waters of the channel, the task of destroying the German Army looked tremendous. That Army included some 347 enemy divisions in all; sixty-odd of them in France, waiting behind the much-vaunted West Wall. A large proportion of the remainder was lined up against the Russians. The Russians were over a thousand miles to the east. There was little thought, in those days, of a junction between the two armies. The entire German Army was between us and our allies. Every thought was focused on those Normandy beaches and the hell of fire our men would soon be facing.

That’s why we need some form of universal military training. That’s why we need a National Rifle Association … to promote small-arms marksmanship, whether on the range or in the hunting field. I was never more convinced of the need of such skill; never more completely persuaded that it provides that essential something needed in addition to the American fighting man’s heart and ability; a something which cannot be left to a few final, hurried months.

Space does not permit the recital here of untold instances where a hunter or a practiced target shooter, alone and single-handed, created havoc in the ranks of a determined enemy counterattack. I have tried to report some of those instances to you … The great tragedy is that there were not more of them. There could have been more, multiplied thousands more, if we had had more hunters, more expert riflemen, to call up from civilian ranks.

Next time, if there ever has to be a next time, it must be different! America must have those riflemen. American fighting men generally, not just in individual instances, must have that edge that skill with shoulder weapons gives. I am convinced that we can and will have it; that the shooters of America, with evangelistic fervor, in the bonds of patriotism and good fellowship, will spread the gospel of shooting fun and shooting skill—for recreation and for national defense.

Universal Military Training (4:17)

One of the underlying themes in this episode is Universal Military Training. The idea surfaced in the late 1940s as we transitioned from WWII into the Cold War. Army Chief of Staff turned Secretary of State believed it was impractical to maintain a large warfighting force like the one we raised during WWII. 

He wasn’t the only one advocating for the plan. President Truman was also a fan.

The idea was to train every citizen in the basics of marksmanship and soldier skills for a period of one to two years. This would enable the country to maintain a much smaller military footprint and therefore save huge amounts of money. If the need ever arose again to mobilize the military, then the citizens who showed up would have a dramatically reduced training cycle because it was more of a refresher than initial skills training.

Ultimately, the idea fizzled. Congress took the option of both cutting the military and not spending money on training. Instead, strategists banked on the newly-formed US Air Force and its fleet of nuclear-armed aircraft to provide security.

But that doesn’t mean the idea was all bad. 

There is value in learning and practicing military skills. If you look at the original boy scout handbook, it’s full of the kinds of things we expected soldiers to know. The original intent, of course, was to teach young boys these skills young so they could be practiced before the boy was old enough to go to war.

Knowing vs Doing (7:03)

I can’t remember when I first came across this idea, but it stuck with me. It’s become too easy for us to access unlimited information and “know things.” In one regard, this is amazing. On the other, it makes us lazy.

The more I learn the more I realize I don’t know.

The trouble is that we’ve become spoiled by all of this information. We’ve become afraid to take action when we have imperfect information. However, that’s often how life’s most important decisions are going to come at us.

Experience is the greatest teacher of all. And you can’t gain experience from learning more information. Perhaps you can gain some insight from the experiences of others, sure, but knowing about building a fire is very different than actually building the fire.

So part of what we’re trying to do is become men of action. We need to spend less time accruing more knowledge about something and more time actually going to do it.

Fear Setting (8:50)

A good practice I’ve learned is called Fear Setting.

I first heard about this from Tim Ferriss.

Set aside a certain number of days, during which you shall be content with the scantiest and cheapest fare, with coarse and rough dress, saying to yourself the while: “Is this the condition that I feared?"

The idea here is to think deeply about the things you’re afraid of. Pick some negative outcome that you are trying to avoid with your need to “get more information,” and really consider if it’s as bad as you think it is.

If you’re like me, you’ll likely realize that it is not. Much of the time, the things we think we fear aren’t actually all that bad. This exercise helps us maintain scope in our lives and focus on the things that really would cause us harm if they came to pass. 

Most things are not like that, though. 

So don’t use fear of failure be the thing that stops you from going out to take action.

Taking Action (9:50)

Now we get to the heart of it: where we go from here. The tagline of this site is, Tactical Skills for an Adventurous Life, so you can imagine where I’m going with this conversation. 

In the theme of Universal Military Training, I advocate that we study and practice those skills which contribute to our personal and communal survival and defense. This helps us develop confidence in our own abilities, and inspire those around us to the same. 

The skills we study and practice here have additional benefits you may not have considered. Marksmanship, for example, helps develop focus and self-awareness. In order to develop mastery of marksmanship, you must have a clear mind, good body awareness, and discipline. 

It’s almost like meditation.

Fitness, as another example, has a myriad of benefits. It’s the single most important factor in how long you’re going to survive. The bottom line is this: The stronger you are, the longer you will survive.

Train the mind and the body will follow”

Another extremely important element is cultivating a strong and resilient mindset. As a culture, we’ve gotten mentally fragile because we expect others to solve our problems for us. That’s the wrong answer.

As men of action, we need to foster the mindset that “we’ve go this.” Not only that, but we need to develop that mindset in those around us, else society continues to slide down a slope of despair and weakness.

One way to develop this is through survival skills. I’m not one to intentionally go “primitive” when I go camping. When I need to build a fire, you can bet I’m going to have a lighter. But that doesn’t excuse me from practicing primitive fire making with flint and steel or two wood sticks from time to time.

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “Two is one and one is none” at least a few times in our community. While I appreciate the sentiment behind it, the truth is that it’s also a dangerous mindset. Reality often dictates how much weight we can carry and still be effectively mobile. 

So much of the gear we invest in is little more than a more convenient way to do things than the “primitive” method. There’s a lot to be said for learning to use a primitive tool, like a quality knife, to do a lot of different tasks rather than buying a specific tool for each of them.

And then having to carry multiple copies of that tool because two is one and one is none.

Build a Tribe (13:43)

You can’t go at this alone. 

Humans are instinctually social animals. We need a gang to back us up. In fact, loneliness is more dangerous to our health than smoking or obesity. Too many of us think that we’re going to face hard times all by ourselves. But in the entire history of humanity, that’s never worked out.

The simple truth is that you can’t master all of the skills. You can learn a lot, but everyone is going to be better at some things more than others. By growing your posse, you add more and varied skills that improve your survivability.

Not to mention, you add people who can watch your back while you sleep.

You don’t have to star there, though. Building your tribe might begin with finding and accountability buddy to help you stay on track with your goals. In fact, this is one of the reasons for the marksman challenges and the community we’re building to support them.

I know for a fact that starting these challenges is keeping me accountable to actually following through with them. I hope it’s doing the same for you.

Examples to Follow (14:40)

Col. Rick Rescorla when he was a 1st Lieutenant in Vietnam

If you’ve never heard of Rick Rescorla, that’s too bad. In this episode, I tell his story, and how he employed the principles I’m talking about here to save over 2700 people on September 11th, 2001.

Another example is that of Billy Dixon, a civilian American frontiersman in the mid to late 1800s. He’s perhaps most famous for landing a 1-mile shot with a 50-90 buffalo rifle during the Second Battle of the Adobe Walls. Later that same year, he earned the Medal of Honor for heroic actions during the Battle of Buffalo Wallow.

Wrapping Up

I hope you enjoyed this episode. As always, I’d appreciate if you subscribed and left me a review. Be sure to leave a comment below and let me know what you thought of the episode, I really do appreciate the feedback as I’m still new to this whole podcasting thing.

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Matt is the primary author and owner of The Everyday Marksman. He's a former military officer turned professional tech sector trainer. He's a lifelong learner, passionate outdoorsman, and steadfast supporter of firearms culture.

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1 Comment
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Well there will certainly be a “next time.” And yes prior shooting experience can certainly save your life. One does not become comfortable with firearms in a few weeks. Unfortunately most 18 year olds don’t have that experience.

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